So here’s a thing - spot the difference:
Fahnestock and MacAfee:
Yes, I have the spleen, in addition to melancholy, with nostalgia, plus hypochondria, and I sneer, and I rage, and I yawn, and I’m tired, and I’m bored, and I’m tormented! Let God go to the Devil!
Yes, I have the spleen, in addition to melancholy, with nostalgia, besides hypochondria, and I sneer, and I rage, and I yawn, and I am tired, and I am knocked in the head, and I am tormented! Let God go to the Devil!”
"Of course, I’m suffering from spleen, complicated with melancholy, nostalgia, plus hypochondria, and I rant and rage and yawn and bore myself, I bore myself to tears, I bore myself to death! God can go to hell!”
“Yes, I am suffering from spleen, complicated by melancholy, nostalgia and hypochondria, and rant and rage and splutter and bore and irritate myself, and may God go to the devil.”
(Thankyou to pilferingapples and notquitelostnotquitefound for help with looking up translations!)
This is something I’ve been wondering about for a while - it’s a line that comes at the end of Grantaire’s first big rant in the the chapter ‘The Back Room of the Café Musain’ (Vol. 3, Book 4, Chap 4). Grantaire is rolling drunk in this scene, and the line comes just after he lunges at Louison the serving maid and has to be pulled away by Bossuet. R snaps at B, telling him to get his hands off him, begins to list everything that’s wrong with humanity (Man is wicked, man is deformed), then just kind of miserably deteriorates into self loathing, coming out with this list of what almost seem to be ‘excuses’ for his gross, obnoxious behaviour (of COURSE I’m behaving like an asshole, what did you EXPECT, it’s ME, I’m a depressed, ranting, spluttering, hateful LOSER, this is what you GET if you choose to hang out with me, I don’t know why you even BOTHER etc etc etc). As (non) apologies go this is a particularly aggravating variety - you’re not *really* admitting responsibility or culpability for your actions, and furthermore you’re placing your own self pitying fees over the legitimate ones of those you’ve wronged (Louison) or upset (Bossuet and the others). With that said, it’s also a really classic pattern of thinking for depressives to fall into - believing you’re an intrinsically, irrevocably flawed human being, so there’s no *point* in trying to make better of yourself because it won’t work because you’re too much of a wreck and beyond improvement, blah blah blah self-fulfilling prophecy repeat til fade :/ :/)
What i’m curious about, though, is the different ways some of the translators have chosen to interpret the line, specifically the bit about being ‘bored’ vs ‘boring himself’. This is about the most direct insight into R’s perception of himself - and his baseline self loathing - that we get in the brick, but the different translations affect the weight of the line slightly -
“I rant, I rage, I splutter, I’m bored, I’m irritated,”
speaks a little differently of Grantaire’s ~inner turmoil~ than
“I rant, I rage, I splutter, I bore and I irritate myself”
In the first one he’s still kinda blaming the world around him for some of his actions (LIFE IS SO BORING AND UNSTIMULATING BLAH BLAH ENNUI ENNUI OF COURSE I ACT OUT), but the second one is pure self-loathing (UGH GOD I HATE MYSELF I CAN’T STAND TO HEAR MYSELF SPEAK I’M SUCH A MESS/WRECK/BLAH SELF PITY). The first reads more like an excuse to me, the second more of an apology (though again, not a particularly helpful one - but very blinkers-of-depression-y & relatable if you’ve ever ‘been there’ yourself).
So, which meaning was Hugo shooting for in the original text? That isn’t rhetorical, I honestly don’t know - here’s the French:
“Oui, j’ai le spleen, compliqué de la mélancolie, avec la nostalgie, plus l’hypocondrie, et je bisque, et je rage, et je bâille, et je m’ennuie, et je m’assomme, et je m’embête ! Que Dieu aille au diable !”
Google translate gives me this:
Yes, I have the spleen, complicated with melancholy, with homesickness, plus hypochondria, and I bisque, and I rage, and I yawn, and I’m bored, and I knock, and I ‘m bother! God can go to hell!
Which would suggest ‘I’m bored’ rather than ‘I bore myself’ but, uh, obviously it has its limitations as a translation tool… does anyone have any better insight? Super curious to know whether Grantaire is literally tired of the sound of his own voice or simply ~bored with the world~. Both are consistent with his character, I think (though the first gives me more ;-; r feels so I’m kinda holding out for that one!)
Just finally, here’s Wraxall’s take on the line (ty again pilf!) - a little different to the others:
“Yes, I have the spleen, complicated with melancholy, homesickness, and a dash of hypochondria; and I rage, and I yawn, and I am killing myself, I make myself horribly dull.”
So, like, Grantaire’s calling himself boring rather than stating that he bores himself? Which is kinda almost the same, but not quite. Also, I’m not sure where Wraxall got ‘Killing myself’ from?! mean on the one hand… yeah, accurate :/.. but on the other, I don’t think there’s a basis for that in the Acshul Original French. Oh Wraxall, etc.
but since it falls unto my lot, that I should rise and you should not; I’ll gently rise and I’ll softly call, ”good night and joy be with you all.”
Grantaire had not yet reached that lamentable phase; far from it. He was tremendously gay, and Bossuet and Joly retorted. They clinked glasses. Grantaire added to the eccentric accentuation of words and ideas, a peculiarity of gesture; he rested his left fist on his knee with dignity, his arm forming a right angle, and, with cravat untied, seated astride a stool, his full glass in his right hand, he hurled solemn words.
you lean towards despair / any given opportunity you’re there
"Marius’ amours!" exclaimed Grantaire. "I see them now. Marius is a fog, and he must have found a vapor. Marius is of the poets’ race. He who says poet says fool. Tymbraeus Apollo. Marius and his Mary, or his Maria, or his Marietta, or his Marion, they must make odd lovers. I can imagine how it is. Ecstasies where they forgot to kiss. Chaste on Earth, but coupling in the infinite. They are souls that have senses. They sleep together in the stars. [volume xv, book xii]
"Terribly sorry, old top," said the National Guardsman, who - if it was worth anything - really did mean it. "It’s just - regulations and that. Rum luck you’ve got. Untouched the whole time, what?"
Enjolras, who had until this point been attempting to embody the spirit of Liberté herself in a square-shouldered pose against the wall, nodded curtly. Enjolras, as the reader knows, possessed of both an unearthly beauty and charming but terrible nature that sends this narrator into convulsions of ecstasy. But that is a story for another time.
The Guardsman sighed and repeated, “Rum luck, what. I say, would you like a blindfold at least?”
“No,” said Enjolras, at once a vision of light, freedom, justice and the refined sort of manners that come of an impeccable upbringing. “Thank you, but I should think not.” He blinked once, and the assembled Guardsmen were forced to lean forward in unison so as to secure a better view of his impossibly sweet, blue eyes.
“Ah well,” said the Guardsman who had spoken before. “As you do, then.” He raised his rifle slowly, then lowered it again as a second figure arose with a clatter and the clang of fallen bottles from a little table in the back of the room.
Grantaire, the reader remembers, had fallen asleep here the day before and remained in this state throughout the entirety of the battle. Jolted awake by the sudden, jarring silence, he straightened his monocle and stumbled over his upturned chair, suddenly hyper-aware of the entire situation. This is not an uncommon occurrence for a drunkard awakening from an alcohol-induced slumber, as any party-goer or regular drinker can attest, but rather a skill that develops out of necessity; one must be able to quickly and accurately assess to what extent one has made a fool of oneself the night prior in order to react to a potentially offended or angry host.
“I say,” said Grantaire in a clear and firm voice. The assembly blinked, surprised, for it did not suit him at all. He crossed to Enjolras’ side and turned to stare down the Guardsmen. “I say,” he repeated, “if you’re going to shoot him, comrades, you’ll have to shoot me as well, what. Solidarity and all that.”
“Grantaire.” Enjolras stared at him.
“Enjolras, old chum?”
“Are you drunk?”
Grantaire shook his head regretfully. “On nothing but a sudden and inexplicable enthusiasm for the Revolution, old top. I finished off all my wine last night - as well as a rather impressive row of tumblers of stout, absinthe and brandy - and now it appears I’ve been imbibed with the spirit of the Republic itself. Liberty, justice and equality for all, what.”
Turning to the assembly of Guardsmen, who had begun fiddling with their rifles so as not to disturb what had clearly become a rather private and tender moment between the priest of the ideal and a surprise convert, he adjusted the sit of his monocle and added cheerfully, “So, as you were, men. Ready, aim, fire and all that. We’ve a special running today - a two-for-the-price-of-one affair. I expect it will translate very well into the official report. A stunning show. The entire Revolution summed up in the thud of two bodies hitting the floor. Shakespeare couldn’t have staged it better himself, though I’m sure he’d have been tearing out his rummy little beard in an attempt to do so. Pointy little thing it was, what. I say, do you think it would have suited me?”
He held his hand up to his chin as an example for Enjolras’ critical, cornflower blue eye.
“No,” said Enjolras at last. “But, to be fair, I don’t think anything suits you.”
“Alas,” sighed Grantaire sadly, then brightened once more. “I say, Enjolras, old hare, I rather forgot to ask you - silly of me - but would you mind terribly, that is, would you permit it if we go down together? Last display of solidarity in the face of adversity and all that, straight-backed and proud until we crumple in a bloodied heap, bosoms heaving with the last, revolutionary breaths and cries of ‘long live the Republic’ on our lips - all that sort of thing, what?”
Enjolras, flooded with an all-encompassing affection that rounded out all the cornery bits of his soul and completed his metaphorical transformation into the Successfully Well-Rounded Ideal , smiled sublimely and took the convert’s hand into his own.
There was a momentary lapse as the two were given time to press the wrinkles from their trousers, straighten their jackets and - in Grantaire’s case - re-adjust the sit of their monocles. They looked dashing - and revolutionary to the last word - as the report sounded.
If there’s no one beside you when your soul embarks, then I’ll follow you into the dark.